Administration Tips

Department of Labor Issues New Letters

DOL Offers new General Notice and Election Notice, February 4, 2020

Recently, the Department of Labor released new revisions of the DOL General Notice and DOL Qualifying Event letter. Upon our initial review, we found mainly wording changes, not changing the expressed meaning of the notifications. It seems the new letters replaced more complex words with “common” variations.

There has been a push for documents detailing government legislation to be offered at a 6th grade reading level so that all employees understand the meaning. As an Administrator, we find that the easier the information is to understand - the fewer phone calls we will receive. COBRA is complex, with numerous difficult to understand rules. We can only hope that the changes will benefit both employees and Administrators.

The General Notice (or letter detailing COBRA rights to newly-enrolled employees) received a new section explaining a person's rights when they become entitled to Medicare. The inter-twining of COBRA and Medicare is difficult for most Administrators, not to mention employees. We believe the section was included because it offers advice on not incurring a late penalty for enrolling in Medicare Part B if COBRA is accepted.

Similar to the General Notice, the COBRA Qualifying Event Letter (provided when an employee or covered dependent experiences a Qualifying Event) added information on how COBRA and Medicare work (or not work) together. The letter removed some language that was provided in earlier editions that may/may not have been correct when it discussed the other option to COBRA, the Healthcare Marketplace.

To the average Administrator, they probably would not have noticed the changes from the previous Department of Labor letters. For this reason, we have the following tip.

TIP: Prior to the Department of Labor releasing a General Notice and Qualifying Event Letter, employers were pressed to create their own. The problem was, courts would decide if the letter provided everything in an understandable language. If not, that employer could have been fined or more likely, lose an employment-related case. This is why we recommend the use of Department of Labor letters without being edited (too much). They offer the "Good Housekeeping" seal meaning you will never be found in COBRA notice violation if they are used.